Section 8 renter approval criteria

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I have to existing rentals that are luxury condos and have a system to get renters approved. I now have a low income 4plex that I would like to rent to section 8. Do the same approval policies and procedures apply to section 8 renters?

- I think I am going to get renters that have a problem with English, so should I expect them to be able to fill out a English application.

- Should I expect them to pay with a check or be willing to accept cash each month?

- I use an online credit/eviction/criminal background check service, should I expect them to be able to fill out and pay via the online service?

I use the following criteria: 

  • Applicants minimum requirements Policy:
  • Applicant’s gross monthly income must equal approximately three times or more the monthly rent.
  • Applicants must be employed and be able to furnish acceptable proof of the required income.
  • Applicants must have a credit score at or above 600.
  • Applicants must have good references concerning rental payment, housekeeping, and property maintenance from all previous Landlords.
  • Applicants do not have a history containing evictions.
  • Applicants do not have a history with felony convictions.

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I only market to S8 voucher holders, VASH & housing our heroes.  There is a 10 year waiting list to get a voucher, so in my experience the tenant isn't likely to muck it up with unauthorized pets, guests, etc

You can eliminate 3x rent since the applicant will have a voucher.  

You set the payment terms.  You can force anyone to pay online though.

I have more problems from my non-S8 tenants.

Screen S8 tenants as you would a regular prospect.

@James Conaway , in our area, from what I understand, section 8 requires an annual inspection of the property. 

Payments are made by the government via direct deposit on the 1st.

Is 3x rent income requirement (including voucher) common?

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You screen applicants all exactly the same regardless of whether they are on welfare or not. You set your screening standards based on the class of your property.

Unless you specifically want welfare tenants in which case you adjust the screening. Welfare recipients are a special class and have special privileges eg: income qualifications. Income is irrelevant as most have no earned income. Since they do not earn any income there is no point in making income a qualifier. They are not treated equally to other applicants.

BP had a section 8 post out a few weeks ago; this is how I responded to that (basically, if you don't currently rent through the Section 8 program, it's a tough learn!):

Contrary to public opinion, violations of the lease by a Section 8 tenant DOES NOT result in automatic loss of Section 8 status for the tenant UNLESS the landlord evicts the tenant through the judicial process (local magistrate). The Section 8 office will tell you that the lease is between you and the tenant; they only pay the rent. If there is a lease violation it is the responsibility of the landlord to act to correct the issue or evict the tenant, but eviction must go through the judicial process in order for the tenant to be disqualified from the Section 8 program (for up to five years).

Inspections can also be a challenge. Doors and windows must operate as designed, with security latches and everything functioning properly. Inside doors must latch also, even if they are only for a closet. For electrical issues, recent national electrical code must be followed. Any electrical outlet within 6 feet of a water source must be a GFCI. (And you must have an outlet in the bathroom). If you have non-grounded three-prong outlets, they won’t pass either. (Our local inspector encourages us to change the three-prong non-grounded receptacles to the old two-prong style, which I find ridiculous, because then the tenant then has to use the three-to-two adapters.) Smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors must be in every bedroom and common areas, altogether adding great costs to your rental. And each floor requires one fire extinguisher now. Plumbing code must be followed also; no lead lines, no drips, handles must shut off water and toilets must not run or leak. Tubs can not have mold or mildew growth. And let’s not forget outside: shingles can not be loose, curling or even in poor condition (subjective). No peeling paint outside either: if you are renting one side of a duplex via Section 8, the roof and paint on BOTH sides must meet this standard. Inspections can test every bit of your patience.

Section 8 tenants need to be managed by a qualified landlord just like non-Section 8 tenants: being in a government-sponsored program won’t get people to behave if they choose to act like heathens. Finding and keeping good tenants is the primary role of the qualified landlord; failing to perform this function correctly will lead to disaster regardless who is paying the rent.

One more thing: your unit must pass inspection prior to the tenant moving in. Sometimes this can cost you quite a bit and significant work to do these things, but you do it. Section 8 will also require you to prove that all real estate taxes are paid up, and that all municipal utilities are working and paid up BEFORE the tenant moves in. You figure, wow that’s strict, but I’ll have some protection, right? WRONG! At the end of the year, when you decide not to rent to the tenant again, and you inform Section 8, you might think the Section 8 office would verify that the tenant has paid up all the utilities prior to giving them a new voucher for the next place, right? No! You might think the Section 8 office is going to inspect the property-the one you worked long and hard and spent money to meet their standards-prior to the tenant moving out and getting a voucher for the next place, right? WRONG! The Section 8 program places great requirements on the landlord at the outset (and periodically if the contract is re-newed) but never places this same burden on the tenant. They simply let the tenant move on and you get stuck with the unpaid water and sewer bills and their junk left in your unit.

Be sure to take a lot of pictures before you rent and after the tenant moves out, just as you should for any tenant. Also, if the utilities aren’t paid in full each month, you may have to threaten to evict them to get them to pay their bills. Be sure the Section 8 tenant pays their utilities each month in full. The Section 8 office leaves you with ALL the responsibility, so don’t expect anything but a rent check from them.

I will never understand how a government-run program can give a taxpayer-supported voucher to a tenant who left behind a mess of junk and unpaid utility bills for a landlord: to me, that is the number one reason landlords don’t want to participate in the program. In the end, the landlord gets screwed by the tenant AND Uncle Sam.

Good Luck. Tim

Tim hit the nail on the head with what he wrote.

All I can tell you is that in my neck of the woods is that finding a Section 8 tenant with a credit score at or above 600 would be like finding one with all their natural teeth.  Same with finding someone who hasn't gone through a previous eviction (even from a previous government housing facility).  Applicants seem depressingly casual about having been evicted previously.    It is now quite "iffy" if one can even ask about a history of felony convictions so be careful about adding that criteria.  

Just recently it was announced that my county has 3500 individuals receiving vouchers; that's 3500 properties that need to be inspected yearly by the same folks who inspect new units entering the program.  Typically that means a six to eight week period before your new property can go through the initial inspection to see if it even qualifies for the program.   Most landlords do not wish to wait with an empty rental property that long.  ASK your housing authority how long the wait for the initial inspection will take.

My experience has been that you need to monitor these tenants more closely than others.   It is not unusual that the number of folks residing in your property will grow if not monitored.  Tenants will bring in family members who are temporarily/permanently homeless, single moms will bring in new boyfriends, daughters who produce children will have a tendency to drop their offspring off with grandma and grandpa to raise, etc..  Not stating this as a stereotype; just from experience.  All, of course, produces more wear and tear on your rental unit.


In reality you are renting to the government and are government controlled although you must allow a welfare recipient to live in the property.

As a landlord you may receive rent from the government but you still must manage their ward/your tenant by your standards.

If you screen and allow tenants with below average credit scores there is no doubt you will be effected by this tenant. Bad credit scores reflect a bad attitude in most cases. You will likely get attitude, push back and a clear scenes of entitlement from them on all issues.

Welfariens can be very difficult to manage. If your property is in a C/D area they are common but not necessary tenants. There are plenty of hard working low income people deserving of descent housing that do not have rock bottom credit scores.

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